Meet the Osprey

It’s Nassau County’s Official Bird!

Osprey - Long Island's Official BirdMeet the osprey, a.k.a. the fish hawk, sea hawk or fish eagle. The osprey was named Nassau County’s official bird last year after winning a hotly-contested election. All three candidates in the contest for Nassau’s top bird ran…or flew a hard campaign. But the race went to the swift-the osprey, with 5,547 votes, 49%. The Tree Swallow was second with 3,864 and the American Oystercatcher, who remained the underdog through the campaign, received 1,833.

Nassau County Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) kicked off the contest back in August 2006 at the Garden City Bird Sanctuary, where she was joined by Robert Alvey, Founder of the Garden City Bird Sanctuary.

Alvey and the others helped narrow the contestants down to three and then voters were able to visit the Nassau County website to vote, or send in a write-in ballot. More than 18 local schools, elementary through high schools, got involved with the vote, using the contest as an example to teach students about the democratic voting process, the environment, land preservation and ecology.

Teresa Rolla, Student Government Advisor for H. Frank Carey High School, stated “The student body of H. Frank Carey High School was so happy to participate in the ‘Official Nassau County Bird Campaign.’ We were eager to help raise awareness about protecting these birds and their natural habitats. The Seahawk (Osprey) just happens to be our school mascot, which made the campaign even more exciting,” Rolla said. “We enjoyed setting up a school and community-wide ‘Vote for the Osprey aka Seahawk Campaign.’ The Student Government included the social studies and science departments in this venture. We campaigned with flyers, buttons, and information about all three birds at meetings and events, of course, hoping the Osprey would win!”

The winning Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a medium large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a world-wide distribution. It is also known as the fish hawk, sea hawk or fish eagle. As fish eaters, they are more restricted to water sites, and have had a significant decline in population from DDT as well as a loss of nesting sites. Over the last decade, several nesting sites have been erected, and their population has slowly been rebounding.

“I believe that this contest put a spotlight on the birds of Nassau County, educated residents regarding the variety of species we have here in the County and also generated an interest in protecting the birds and their habitats,” said Jacobs. “In addition, many of our local schools got very involved in the race, and used this contest as a learning tool to teach students about the voting process.”
The Parks, Recreation & Museums Department designed signs that will be posted throughout the county, notifying people to “Be on the lookout” for Nassau’s official bird. The signs, designed by Parks Department graphic artists John Izzarone, will be posted in areas where one might spot an osprey.

These locations include: Parks and Preserves on the South or North Shores of Nassau County and areas with large lakes. Cow Meadow Preserve; Massapequa Preserve; Atlantic Beach; Bay Park; Garvies Point Preserve; Welwyn; Hempstead Harbor Park; Inwood Park and Sands Point Preserve.